The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been pushed to early 2021 as it suffers additional setbacks. NASA officials established the new launch date follow the recommendations of the Independent Review Board (IRB). The IRB was convinced to assess the progress of James Webb and unanimously voted in favour of continuing its development despite rising costs.
“Webb should continue based on its extraordinary scientific potential and critical role in maintaining U.S. leadership in astronomy and astrophysics,” said Tom Young, the chair of the IRB. “Ensuring every element of Webb functions properly before it gets to space is critical to its success.”
The additional delays have also had a drastic effect on the development cost estimate of the James Webb telescope. The additional year required for development will increase the $8.8 billion cost of the telescope by a further $1 billion. As a result, despite the recommendations of the IRB, NASA will require additional authorisation from Congress as the new development estimate breaks a previously stipulated cost cap. The agency has already filed a final break report and await Congress’ formal reauthorisation of the program.
Despite the delays, there is continued support for the program and its mission. “The more we learn more about our universe, the more we realize that Webb is critical to answering questions we didn’t even know how to ask when the spacecraft was first designed,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Webb is poised to answer those questions, and is worth the wait.”